Being Prepared for an Emergency in the Workplace
Emergencies can happen at any time. The most effective way to handle a crisis situation is to prepare in advance by creating an Emergency Action Plan. The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) even requires written Emergency Action Plans for many businesses, and specific businesses have additional regulations due to their part in the country's infrastructure or their handling of hazardous materials. Beyond that, there are many reasons for having a solid preparedness program.
Emergency Action Plan — Why Should You Have One?
The main reason to have an emergency action plan is to do as much as possible to keep your employees safe in case of disaster. The confusion of an emergency can make a bad situation worse and put lives at risk. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provides more reasons an emergency action plan is important from a purely business perspective.
- Up to 40% of businesses affected by a natural or human-caused disaster never reopen. Having procedures in place to deal with disasters can help your business survive this difficult experience.
- Customers may not understand the disaster and its effects on your business. They'll still expect products or service on time. If there's a significant delay, they may take their business to a competitor.
- Even if a disaster does slow or shut down your business, a robust emergency action plan has procedures in place to contact customers and stakeholders quickly to keep them up to date on what has happened. News travels fast and perceptions are often different from reality. Staying on top of the information stream reduces negative perception.
- Insurance often only provides partial assistance. It does not cover all losses and does not bring back lost customers.
- Public agencies cannot be expected to provide total relief either. Many disasters can overwhelm their resources, meaning aid may not be immediate even when it is available.
- Many large businesses are now expecting their suppliers to have preparations in place for emergencies, trying to make sure their own business will not be hurt if something happens to another company on the supply chain. Without a plan in place, your business could be given to a competitor.
How to Get Started
The best time to handle an emergency is before it ever takes place . Before you create your emergency action plan, you'll need to analyze your business and see what potential hazards you face. These can vary depending on the type of business and your location. Some emergency action plans will cover problems dealing with hazardous materials on hand, some will need to deal with issues stemming from older buildings that were built to a lower-standard safety code, and some will need to have strategies in place to prepare for natural disasters more likely in certain areas, such as hurricanes, earthquakes, and tornadoes.
While many things will be different depending on the type of emergency you are preparing for — what you do during a tornado or earthquake will be much different than what you do during a fire or workplace violence incident, for example — some of the basic preparations will be similar for multiple problems. Always provide steps for getting people to safety, whether that means sheltering or evacuating them, and always have a clear and effective plan for communicating with everyone who could be affected.
Be sure to investigate not just what hazards you may face and how to stay safe during them, but also what effects they will have afterward. This should reveal such considerations as what lost income and increased expenses could be caused by your business being shut down for various amounts of time, the effect of lost customers, the delay of new business plans, and other effects of a disruption of service. Be as exact as possible in order to get a good idea of what costs you might accrue so you can most accurately plan for a disaster.
FEMA provides a Business Impact Analysis Worksheet you can distribute to management and any other employees you feel can contribute to your preparations. Download the worksheet here: http://www.ready.gov/sites/default/files/documents/files/BusinessImpactAnalysis_Worksheet.pdf
Create Your Emergency Action Plan
Once you have identified all of the possible threats you may face and the potential effects, you should come up with responses for the hazards. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
- For emergency situations, have an individual in charge of following and getting others to follow the procedures you outline. For larger companies, you may need more than one, in separate departments or as backups, but in this case make sure the hierarchy is clearly laid out. Employees must know this individual is in charge and has authority during an emergency.
- Ensure the methods for reporting fires and other emergencies are clear, whether it's dialing 911, calling an internal emergency number, pulling a manual fire alarm, or other procedure which may change depending on the type of emergency.
- Create evacuation policies and paths that are clear and easy to follow.
- Have procedures in place for employees who must remain during the beginning of an evacuation to take care of greater hazards. This includes employees who must use fire extinguishers, shut down gas lines and/or electrical systems, or safeguard hazardous materials to keep a bad situation from getting worse.
- Be prepared for the loss of computer hardware, software, and information related to technological disruptions, and find ways to back up and recover it.
- Note who is able to perform medical care, from first aid to CPR, and make sure they are in the proper positions to do so.
- Provide clear communication during and immediately after any dangerous incident.
OSHA has several resources to help you prepare your emergency action plan.
- Use the Emergency Action Plan Expert System to help you create your plan: http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/etools/evacuation/expertsystem/default.htm
- Check to make sure your plan and equipment meets OSHA's standards: http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/etools/evacuation/evaluate.html
- Ensure your plan is robust using OSHA's Emergency Action Plan Checklist: http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/etools/evacuation/docs/eap_checklist.pdf
Once Your Plan Is Complete
Your emergency action plan provides no benefit if it is simply filed away . It needs to be shared with the entire company for several reasons.
- Every employee needs to know the plan so they can follow it in case of an emergency.
- Company leadership needs to provide whatever resources are necessary to follow it.
- It needs to be subject to review so improvements can be made on an ongoing basis.
- Training needs to be provided. Just as physical exercise allows you to perform physical tasks with less effort, emergency procedure exercises
- allow the workforce to follow the plan in an actual emergency quickly and efficiently at a time when every second counts.
Continue Monitoring and Improving
This training also tests the plan itself. The individual or committee in charge of emergency response should monitor the training to see where problems might be present that were not obvious during the planning phases.
For instance, fire alarms that were intended to alert everyone to danger might not be noticeable in some parts of the building with loud equipment running. Your emergency action plan should be reviewed often and updated accordingly as situations change.
An official website of the United States government
Here’s how you know
Official websites use .gov A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.
Secure .gov websites use HTTPS A lock ( Lock A locked padlock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.
Emergency Response Plan
The actions taken in the initial minutes of an emergency are critical. A prompt warning to employees to evacuate, shelter or lockdown can save lives. A call for help to public emergency services that provides full and accurate information will help the dispatcher send the right responders and equipment. An employee trained to administer first aid or perform CPR can be lifesaving. Action by employees with knowledge of building and process systems can help control a leak and minimize damage to the facility and the environment.
The first step when developing an emergency response plan is to conduct a risk assessment to identify potential emergency scenarios. An understanding of what can happen will enable you to determine resource requirements and to develop plans and procedures to prepare your business. The emergency plan should be consistent with your performance objectives .
At the very least, every facility should develop and implement an emergency plan for protecting employees, visitors, contractors and anyone else in the facility. This part of the emergency plan is called “protective actions for life safety” and includes building evacuation (“fire drills”), sheltering from severe weather such as tornadoes, “shelter-in-place” from an exterior airborne hazard such as a chemical release and lockdown. Lockdown is protective action when faced with an act of violence.
When an emergency occurs, the first priority is always life safety. The second priority is the stabilization of the incident. There are many actions that can be taken to stabilize an incident and minimize potential damage. First aid and CPR by trained employees can save lives. Use of fire extinguishers by trained employees can extinguish a small fire. Containment of a small chemical spill and supervision of building utilities and systems can minimize damage to a building and help prevent environmental damage.
Some severe weather events can be forecast hours before they arrive, providing valuable time to protect a facility. A plan should be established and resources should be on hand, or quickly, available to prepare a facility. The plan should also include a process for damage assessment, salvage, protection of undamaged property and cleanup following an incident. These actions to minimize further damage and business disruption are examples of property conservation.
Guidance for the development of an emergency response plan can be found in this step.
Protective Actions for Life Safety
When there is a hazard within a building such as a fire or chemical spill, occupants within the building should be evacuated or relocated to safety. Other incidents such as a bomb threat or receipt of a suspicious package may also require evacuation. If a tornado warning is broadcast, everyone should be moved to the strongest part of the building and away from exterior glass. If a transportation accident on a nearby highway results in the release of a chemical cloud, the fire department may warn to “shelter-in-place.” To protect employees from an act of violence, “lockdown” should be broadcast and everyone should hide or barricade themselves from the perpetrator.
Protective actions for life safety include:
Your emergency plan should include these protective actions. If you are a tenant in multi-tenanted building, coordinate planning with the building manager.
Prompt evacuation of employees requires a warning system that can be heard throughout the building. Test your fire alarm system to determine if it can be heard by all employees. If there is no fire alarm system, use a public address system, air horns or other means to warn everyone to evacuate. Sound the evacuation signal during planned drills so employees are familiar with the sound.
Make sure that there are sufficient exits available at all times.
- Check to see that there are at least two exits from hazardous areas on every floor of every building. Building or fire codes may require more exits for larger buildings.
- Walk around the building and verify that exits are marked with exit signs and there is sufficient lighting so people can safely travel to an exit. If you find anything that blocks an exit, have it removed.
- Enter every stairwell, walk down the stairs, and open the exit door to the outside. Continue walking until you reach a safe place away from the building. Consider using this safe area as an assembly area for evacuees.
Appoint an evacuation team leader and assign employees to direct evacuation of the building. Assign at least one person to each floor to act as a “floor warden” to direct employees to the nearest safe exit. Assign a backup in case the floor warden is not available or if the size of the floor is very large. Ask employees if they would need any special assistance evacuating or moving to shelter. Assign a “buddy” or aide to assist persons with disabilities during an emergency. Contact the fire department to develop a plan to evacuate persons with disabilities.
Have a list of employees and maintain a visitor log at the front desk, reception area or main office area. Assign someone to take the lists to the assembly area when the building is evacuated. Use the lists to account for everyone and inform the fire department whether everyone has been accounted for. When employees are evacuated from a building, OSHA regulations require an accounting to ensure that everyone has gotten out safely. A fire, chemical spill or other hazard may block an exit, so make sure the evacuation team can direct employees to an alternate safe exit.
If a tornado warning is broadcast, a distinct warning signal should be sounded and everyone should move to shelter in the strongest part of the building. Shelters may include basements or interior rooms with reinforced masonry construction. Evaluate potential shelters and conduct a drill to see whether shelter space can hold all employees. Since there may be little time to shelter when a tornado is approaching, early warning is important. If there is a severe thunderstorm, monitor news sources in case a tornado warning is broadcast. Consider purchasing an Emergency Alert System radio - available at many electronic stores. Tune in to weather warnings broadcast by local radio and television stations. Subscribe to free text and email warnings, which are available from multiple news and weather resources on the Internet.
A tanker truck crashes on a nearby highway releasing a chemical cloud. A large column of black smoke billows into the air from a fire in a nearby manufacturing plant. If, as part of this event, an explosion, or act of terrorism has occurred, public emergency officials may order people in the vicinity to “shelter-in-place.” You should develop a shelter-in-place plan. The plan should include a means to warn everyone to move away from windows and move to the core of the building. Warn anyone working outside to enter the building immediately. Move everyone to the second and higher floors in a multistory building. Avoid occupying the basement. Close exterior doors and windows and shut down the building’s air handling system. Have everyone remain sheltered until public officials broadcast that it is safe to evacuate the building.
An act of violence in the workplace could occur without warning. If loud “pops” are heard and gunfire is suspected, every employee should know to hide and remain silent. They should seek refuge in a room, close and lock the door, and barricade the door if it can be done quickly. They should be trained to hide under a desk, in the corner of a room and away from the door or windows. Multiple people should be trained to broadcast a lockdown warning from a safe location.
Resources for Protective Actions for Life Safety
In addition to the following resources available on the Internet, seek guidance from your local fire department, police department, and emergency management agency.
- Exit Routes and Emergency Planning – U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) 29 CFR 1910 Subpart E
- NFPA 101: Life Safety Code® – National Fire Protection Association
- Employee Alarm Systems – OSHA 29 CFR 1910.165
- Evacuation Planning Matrix – OSHA
- Evacuation Plans and Procedures eTool - OSHA
- Design Guidance for Shelters and Safe Rooms – Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA 453)
Stabilizing an emergency may involve many different actions including: firefighting, administering medical treatment, rescue, containing a spill of hazardous chemicals or handling a threat or act of violence. When you dial 9-1-1 you expect professionals to respond to your facility. Depending upon the response time and capabilities of public emergency services and the hazards and resources within your facility, you may choose to do more to prepare for these incidents. Regulations may require you to take action before emergency services arrive.
If you choose to do nothing more than call for help and evacuate , you should still prepare an emergency plan that includes prompt notification of emergency services, protective actions for life safety and accounting of all employees.
Developing the Emergency Plan
Developing an emergency plan begins with an understanding of what can happen. Review your risk assessment . Consider the performance objectives that you established for your program and decide how much you want to invest in planning beyond what is required by regulations .
Assess what resources are available for incident stabilization. Consider internal resources and external resources including public emergency services and contractors. Public emergency services include fire departments that may also provide rescue, hazardous materials and emergency medical services. If not provided by your local fire department, these services may be provided by another department, agency or even a private contractor. Reach out to local law enforcement to coordinate planning for security related threats.
Document available resources. Determine whether external resources have the information they would need to handle an emergency. If not, determine what information is required and be sure to document that information in your plan.
Prepare emergency procedures for foreseeable hazards and threats. Review the list of hazards presented at the bottom of the page. Develop hazard and threat specific procedures using guidance from the resource links at the bottom of this page.
Warning, Notifications, and Communications
Plans should define the most appropriate protective action for each hazard to ensure the safety of employees and others within the building. Determine how you will warn building occupants to take protective action. Develop protocols and procedures to alert first responders including public emergency services, trained employees and management. Identify how you will communicate with management and employees during and following an emergency.
Roles and Responsibilities for Building Owners and Facility Managers
Assign personnel the responsibility of controlling access to the emergency scene and for keeping people away from unsafe areas. Others should be familiar with the locations and functions of controls for building utility, life safety and protection systems. These systems include ventilation, electrical, water and sanitary systems; emergency power supplies; detection, alarm, communication and warning systems; fire suppression systems; pollution control and containment systems; and security and surveillance systems. Personnel should be assigned to operate or supervise these systems as directed by public emergency services if they are on-site.
Site and Facility Plans and Information
Public emergency services have limited knowledge about your facility and its hazards. Therefore, it is important to document information about your facility. That information is vital to ensure emergency responders can safely stabilize an incident that may occur. Documentation of building systems may also prove valuable when a utility system fails—such as when a water pipe breaks and no one knows how to shut off the water.
Compile a site-plan and plans for each floor of each building. Plans should show the layout of access roads, parking areas, buildings on the property, building entrances, the locations of emergency equipment and the locations of controls for building utility and protection systems. Instructions for operating all systems and equipment should be accessible to emergency responders.
Provide a copy of the plan to the public emergency services that would respond to your facility and others with responsibility for building management and security. Store the plan with other emergency planning information such as chemical Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS), which are required by Hazard Communication or “right to know” regulations.
Training and Exercises
Train personnel so they are familiar with detection, alarm, communications, warning and protection systems. Review plans with staff to ensure they are familiar with their role and can carry out assigned responsibilities. Conduct evacuation, sheltering, sheltering-in-place and lockdown drills so employees will recognize the sound used to warn them and they will know what to do. Facilitate exercises to practice the plan, familiarize personnel with the plan and identify any gaps or deficiencies in the plan.
10 Steps for Developing the Emergency Response Plan
- Review performance objectives for the program.
- Review hazard or threat scenarios identified during the risk assessment .
- Assess the availability and capabilities of resources for incident stabilization including people, systems and equipment available within your business and from external sources.
- Talk with public emergency services (e.g., fire, police and emergency medical services) to determine their response time to your facility, knowledge of your facility and its hazards and their capabilities to stabilize an emergency at your facility.
- Determine if there are any regulations pertaining to emergency planning at your facility; address applicable regulations in the plan.
- Develop protective actions for life safety (evacuation, shelter, shelter-in-place, lockdown).
- Develop hazard and threat-specific emergency procedures using the Emergency Response Plan for Businesses .
- Coordinate emergency planning with public emergency services to stabilize incidents involving the hazards at your facility.
- Train personnel so they can fulfill their roles and responsibilities.
- Facilitate exercises to practice your plan.
Links to Emergency Planning Information
Pre-incident planning (site and building information for first responders).
- Fire Service Features of Buildings and Fire Protection Systems - U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) Publication 3256-07N
- Standard on Pre-Incident Planning - National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1620
- Design Guidance for Shelters and Safe Rooms
- Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) – OSHA
- Bloodborne pathogens – OSHA 29 CFR 1910.1030
- Model Plans and Programs for the OSHA Bloodborne Pathogens and Hazard Communications Standards – OSHA Publication 3186
- Fire Protection – OSHA 29 CFR 1910 Subpart L
- Fire Brigades - OSHA 29 CFR 1910.156
- Standard on Industrial Fire Brigades - NFPA 600
- Hazardous Materials Emergency Planning Guide (NRT-1) - U.S. National Response Team
- National Hurricane Center , Publications
- Thunderstorms, Tornadoes, Lightning, Nature's Most Violent Storms: A Preparedness Guide, Including Tornado Safety Information for Schools - NOAA, National Weather Service
- Tornado Protection: Selecting Refuge Area in Buildings - FEMA 431
- Permit-Required Confined Spaces - OSHA 29 CFR 1910.146
- Standard for Rescue Technician Professional Qualifications - NFPA 1006
- Standard on Operations and Training for Technical Search and Rescue Incidents - NFPA 1670
- Dealing with Workplace Violence: A Guide for Agency Planners - United States Office of Personnel Management
- Workplace Violence—Issues in Response - Federal Bureau of Investigation
Terrorism, Bomb Threats, and Suspicious Packages
- Ensuring Building Security – DHS
- Safe Rooms and Shelters - Protecting People Against Terrorist Attacks - FEMA 453
- Guidance for Protecting Building Environments from Airborne Chemical, Biological, or Radiological Attacks - National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Publication No. 2002-139, 2002
Hazards to Consider When Developing the Emergency Plan
- Landslide, mudslide, subsidence
- Flood, flash flood, tidal surge
- Water control structure/dam/levee failure
- Snow, ice, hail, sleet, arctic freeze
- Windstorm, tropical cyclone, hurricane, tornado, dust storm
- Extreme temperatures (heat, cold)
- Lightning strikes (wildland fire following)
- Foodborne illnesses
- Pandemic/Infectious/communicable disease (Avian flu, H1N1, etc.)
- Hazardous material spill or release
- Nuclear power plant incident (if located in proximity to a nuclear power plant)
- Transportation accident
- Building/structure collapse
- Entrapment and or rescue (machinery, confined space, high angle, water)
- Transportation Incidents (motor vehicle, railroad, watercraft, aircraft, pipeline)
- Lost person, child abduction, kidnap, extortion, hostage incident, workplace violence
- Demonstrations, civil disturbance
- Bomb threat, suspicious package
Technology caused events
- Utility interruption or failure (telecommunications, electrical power, water, gas, steam, HVAC, pollution control system, sewerage system, other critical infrastructure)
Cyber security (data corruption/theft, loss of electronic data interchange or ecommerce, loss of domain name server, spyware/malware, vulnerability exploitation/botnets/hacking, denial of service)
Taking action before a forecast event, such as a severe storm, can prevent damage. Prompt damage assessment and cleanup activities following the storm can minimize further damage and business disruption. These actions are considered “property conservation”—an important part of the emergency response plan. Much of the following guidance is directed to building owners and facility managers. However, tenants should also develop a plan in coordination with building owners and managers as well as public authorities.
Preparing a Facility for a Forecast Event
Body copy: Actions to prepare a facility for a forecast event depend upon the potential impacts from the hazards associated with the event. Conduct a risk assessment to identify severe weather hazards including winter storms, arctic freeze, tropical storm, hurricane, flooding, storm surge, severe thunderstorm, tornado and high winds. Also consider non-traditional hazards, such as a planned event involving a large crowd.
Property conservation actions should focus on protection of the building and valuable machinery, equipment and materials inside. Potential damage may be prevented or mitigated by inspecting the following building features, systems and equipment:
- Windows and doors
- Roof flashing, covering and drainage
- Exterior signs
- Mechanical equipment, antennas and satellite dishes on rooftops
- Outside storage, tanks and equipment
- Air intakes
- High value machinery
- Sensitive electronic equipment including information technology and process controllers
The review of building components may also identify opportunities for longer-term mitigation strategies.
Property conservation activities for specific forecast events include the following:
- Winter storm - Keep building entrances and emergency exits clear; ensure there is adequate fuel for heating and emergency power supplies; monitor building heat, doors and windows to prevent localized freezing; monitor snow loading and clear roof drains.
- Tropical storms and hurricanes - Stockpile and pre-cut plywood to board up windows and doors (or install hurricane shutters); ensure there is sufficient labor, tools and fasteners available; inspect roof coverings and flashing; clear roof and storm drains; check sump and portable pumps; backup electronic data and vital records off-site; relocate valuable inventory to a protected location away from the path of the storm.
- Flooding - Identify the potential for flooding and plan to relocate goods, materials and equipment to a higher floor or higher ground. Clear storm drains and check sump and portable pumps. Raise stock and machinery off the floor. Prepare a plan to use sandbags to prevent water entry from doors and secure floor drains.
Salvage and Actions to Prevent Further Damage Following an Incident
Separating undamaged goods from water-soaked goods is an example of salvage. Covering holes in a roof or cleaning up water and ventilating a building are also part of property conservation. The property conservation plan should identify the resources needed to salvage undamaged good and materials; make temporary repairs to a building; clean up water, smoke and humidity; and prepare critical equipment for restart.
Resources for property conservation include the following:
- water vacuums and tools to remove water
- fans to remove smoke and humidity
- tarpaulins or plywood to cover damaged roofs or broken windows
- plastic sheeting to cover sensitive equipment
Compile an inventory of available equipment, tools and supplies and include it with the emergency response plan. Identify precautions for equipment exposed to water or high humidity and procedures for restarting machinery and equipment.
Identify contractors that may be called to assist with clean up and property conservation efforts. Keep in mind that competition for contractors, labor, materials and supplies prior to a forecast storm or following a regional disaster may be intense. Plan ahead and secure contractors and other resources in advance.
Resources for Property Conservation
- Protect Your Property from High Winds - Federal Emergency Management Agency
- Natural Disasters - U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
- Emergency Drying Procedures for Water Damaged Collections - Library of Congress
Last Updated: 04/28/2022
Return to top
- West Bend Fraud Hotline
- Message From Our CEO
- What It Means To Be A Mutual Insurance Company
- Mission, Vision, Values
- Company Leadership
- Board of Directors
- Financial Strength
- Annual Report
- Community Involvement
- Silver Lining News
- TV Commercials
- Sustainability At West Bend
- Associate Life at West Bend
- Why Is West Bend a Great Place To Work?
- Agent Login
- Policyholder Login
- Auto Insurance
- Condo Owners Insurance
- Home and Highway Policy
- Homeowners Insurance
- Identity Theft Insurance
- Personal Umbrella Insurance
- Renters Insurance
- Roadside Assistance from TravelNet
- Sport and Rec Vehicle Insurance
- Teen Driving Resources
- Tips to Help Avoid Losses
- West Bend Cares Blog
- West Bend Choice
- Insurance For Your Business
- Loss Control Services
- Premium Audit Services
- Businessowners Policy
- Types of Business We Insure
- Workers' Compensation Insurance
- Business Blog
- Small Business Spotlight
- Loss Control Resources
- After the Storm - Derecho
- Early Return to Work Program
- How To Report A Claim
- Photo Estimating Tool
- Preferred Auto Repair Providers
- Provide Feedback
- Responder: The Silver Lining on Wheels
- Work Comp Claim Kits
- West Bend + Work Comp Claims
- Medical Billing Address
- Distracted Driving Awareness
- Go Paperless
- Resource Hub
- Common Insurance Topics
- I've Had an Accident or Loss
- Payments | Billing
- Videos and Podcasts
- Why use an independent insurance agent
- Agency Locator
Developing an Emergency Action Plan
Posted by West Bend Staff on Oct 13, 2020 2:30:05 PM
What is an Emergency Action Plan?
An Emergency Action Plan (EAP) is a written procedure detailing the appropriate response to various types of emergencies. An EAP is an essential component of an organization’s safety procedures. Creating an EAP and training employees on how to follow it can greatly reduce employee injuries, property damage, and can ensure the safety of visitors in the event of an emergency. OSHA has a helpful tool to walk organizations through the process of creating an EAP.
What Emergencies Require an Emergency Action Plan?
It is also important to recognize that some emergency responses will have radically different recommendations than others. Fires and tornadoes , for example, have two very different requirements. During a fire evacuation the main objective is to get out of the building as quickly as possible, while during a tornado the goal is to get everyone inside the building. Sometimes it will be even more complicated, like during an active shooter emergency , where hiding within the building may be the best option for some and evacuating may be the best option for others.
Key components of an Emergency Action Plan
No two EAPs will be identical. Building layouts, hours of operation, personnel qualifications and more will have an impact on the particulars of an EAP. There are, however, certain universal components that should be included in most EAPs, including:
- Evacuation procedures, escape routes and floor plans
- Reporting and alerting authorities
- Alerting staff and visitors of an emergency
- Accounting for people after implementing an EAP
- Notifying parents, guardians or next of kin
- Identifying a media contact person
- Training new staff
- Policies for updating and maintaining the EAP
We’ve broken some of the components into three distinct sections: considerations for emergencies that start or occur within the building, emergencies that occur outside of the building, and emergencies that come about from a health-related scare. Here are a few examples for each category for your reference:
- Emergencies Within the Building: fire, active shooter, power outage, etc.
- Emergencies Outside of the Building: tornado, lightning, extreme heat, etc.
- Health-Related Emergencies: heart attacks, seizures, drownings, concussions, etc.
Evacuation Procedures, Escape Routes, and Floor Plans
In the event of an emergency, people need to respond quickly; knowing where to go and how to get there is often an important part of a quick response. Depending on the type of emergency, people will either need to exit the building as quickly as possible or be prepared to navigate to a safer part of the building. It is important each person knows exactly where to go in the event of an emergency.
Current floor plans are an integral part of every written EAP . Regardless of the emergency, an EAP should contain an up-to-date floor plan for the entire property. The floor plan should include clearly marked evacuation routes and all emergency exits should be easily identifiable. Remember, this information isn’t only posted for the good of employees; guests, including emergency personnel, will rely on this information to navigate the building safely.
- Emergencies Outside of the Building — In most cases, when an emergency starts outside of the building, the safest thing to do is find a safe place within the building. Most often, emergencies outside of the building will be weather-related or natural disasters like a tornado, earthquake or lightning storm. These events provide different levels of warning before they strike, so it’s important to be prepared to respond to the emergency quickly.
- Emergencies Within the Building — For emergencies occurring inside of the facility (e.g., fires, power outages, etc.), the main goal is to get everyone out of harms way. To achieve this goal, staff should be aware of the fastest and safest way out of the building. It will also be necessary to ensure that evacuation procedures are easily accessible to customers or visitors inside of the building. Having a broad understanding of the layout of a building can help staff prepare for unanticipated detours along the most common emergency exits.
- Health Emergencies — If someone inside of the building is injured or harmed in some way, an EAP should be initiated quickly. Staff should be prepared to respond to a wide range of plausible health scares such as a heart attack, seizure, possible drowning and more. Depending on the emergency, local emergency medical services may be contacted. Be sure that these authorities will have easy access to the injured person and they’ll be able to exit the building quickly when it is time to do so.
Reporting and Alerting Authorities
Most emergencies will require the involvement of police, fire and rescue, and medical professionals. Contacting these authorities is usually as easy as dialing 9-1-1. With that said, it’s important that someone in the organization be designated to make that call. There’s nothing worse than a delayed response because everyone assumed someone else contacted authorities.
It’s important to note that some emergencies will require specialized emergency responders. For instance, a chemical spill will need the services of specialized Hazardous Materials unit and downed power lines or utilities issues will require the work of the utility company. Make sure the Emergency Action Plan contains all the emergency numbers and contact information that may be needed.
Alerting Staff and Visitors of an Emergency
In addition to alerting the proper authorities, it is equally important to communicate to all staff and guests that an emergency is occurring. The exact method of communication will vary based on the size and design of the facility and the type of emergency.
For example, in the event of a fire, the best way to alert everyone is to simply pull the fire alarm. For other emergencies an intercom system might be the most effective method. Some alert systems can be as simple as blowing a whistle (i.e., aquatic EAPs) or ringing a bell.
- Health Emergencies — It is important to note, however, that certain emergencies do not require alerting everyone within a building. For instance, if an individual suffers a medical emergency like a stroke or heart attack, there is no need to make everyone in the entire facility aware. The EAP for these types of emergencies will be much simpler and involve immediately contacting medical help and identifying individuals within your organization trained in First Aid to help stabilize the victim.
Accounting for Everyone after Implementing an EAP
After initiating and executing an EAP, the next step is to regroup. It will be important to identify if anyone was lost or injured during the process. For larger organizations, this is best accomplished by breaking up into manageable groups. In most cases these groups are based on departments or specific physical areas within the facility, but can be organized any way that makes sense for your organization.
Accounting for everyone after an emergency can be as easy as keeping a printed roster and asking people to check in when they’re in a safe location. It is also recommended to have each group meet in a designated area to make it easier to check each person in.
- Emergencies Outside of the Building — Hiding in a secured area is an appropriate response to emergencies that begin outside of the building like tornadoes or lightning storms. Violent emergencies like active shooter scenarios are also an appropriate time to hide. Note that these instances will make the task of locating everyone a challenge. Keeping detailed records can help alleviate some of the trouble, however.
Notifying Parents, Guardians, or Next of Kin
After an EAP has been activated it may be necessary to notify parents, guardians or next of kin for the people involved. Depending on the situation, family members may need to be alerted immediately to provide information or come and pick their children up. A good EAP will detail who is responsible for alerting family members, what emergencies require alerting families, and what information should be relayed. It is also important to maintain up-to-date contact information for all members.
Identifying a Media Contact Person
Depending on the type and severity of the emergency, there’s a possibility that a member of the media will contact your organization seeking information. When dealing with the media it is important to have a single individual identified as the media contact person. Instruct all staff within your organization to direct any inquires from both the media and the public to them. This individual should be well trained on how to respond properly to sensitive questioning and should know what information is and is not acceptable to divulge.
Training New Staff
Since emergencies can occur anytime without warning, it is essential to develop a policy to train all new staff on the various EAPs and their role within the EAP. As part of new employee training/orientation, give all new staff a copy of the EAPs and provide them a layout of the facility along with where all the emergency exits and escape routes are.
New staff should be provided with important locations in the event of specific emergencies, such as where to take shelter in the event of a tornado. Identify multiple emergency exits since certain emergencies may make the closest exit inaccessible. If there is a chemical spill, for instance, staff should be trained to avoid exits near the area and find another way to evacuate the building.
Policies for Updating and Maintaining the EAP
Change is constant. Keeping all EAPs current is a major undertaking, but is the only way to assure an efficient emergency response. EAPs should be reviewed and revised annually or more frequently as needed. Changes should be listed on the document. New hires, building redesigns, new programs, office changes, remodeling, and much more can all impact the effectiveness of an EAP.
Topics: Weather , Emergency Action Plan
Posts by topic.
- Childcare (38)
- Youth Programs (38)
- Aquatics (20)
- Facility Maintenance (20)
- Fitness (18)
- Human Resources (13)
- Weather (13)
- Driving (7)
- Animals (4)
- Child Safety (4)
- Emergency Action Plan (2)
- Insurance (2)
- Wildlife (2)
- Best Practices (1)
- Employee Dishonesty (1)
- Fire Safety (1)
- Nonprofit Organizations (1)
- Social Media (1)
- Volunteers (1)
- security (1)
- small business owner (1)
- About West Bend Cares
- Related Resources
- Return to Main Site
©2014 West Bend Mutual Insurance Company
1900 South 18th Ave., West Bend, WI 53095
P: 262-334-5571 F: 262-334-9109
- West Bend Focus - Distracted Driving Awareness
Please help us improve your experience by taking this one minute survey.
We appreciate your feedback
- +1 (800) 826-0777
- Try It Free
- Why AlertMedia
- Who We Serve
- Customer Spotlights
- Mass Notification
- Threat Intelligence
- Employee Safety Monitoring
- Emergency Preparedness
- Remote Workforce
- Location and Asset Protection
- Business Continuity
- Resource Library
- Downloads & Guides
- We're Hiring!
6 Steps to Creating an Effective Emergency Response Plan [+ Template]
Follow the six steps outlined in this article to create an emergency response plan for keeping your people, business, and assets safe during any critical event that may arise.
What Is an Emergency Response Plan?
- How to Conduct Response Planning
- Determine Your Response Plan Steps
- Develop a Communication Plan
As every emergency management professional will tell you, the best time to prepare for an emergency is well before it occurs. If a hurricane or other severe weather hits, you won’t have time to create an evacuation plan on the spot; you’ll be too busy focusing on immediate hazards. And if your building has a power outage, it’s probably too late to go searching for generators.
Taking a proactive approach to emergency planning helps you ensure the best possible outcomes for your people and business, and it allows you to think holistically about the situation, accounting for a multitude of variables. This approach boils down to a holistic emergency response plan for all the threats your business might face.
While we can’t necessarily predict when critical events will happen, emergencies are a reality for every business—so you need to be ready. We’ll explore what an emergency response plan is and highlight six steps every organization should take to ensure they’re prepared for any emergency or business interruption that may arise.
An emergency response plan is a document that lays out the series of steps your organization will take during a critical event, such as a fire or active shooter threat, to ensure employees’ safety and minimize the impact on critical operations.
Emergency response plans—just like other emergency management planning documents—are meant to help organizations address various types of emergencies, such as hurricanes, wildfires, winter weather, chemical spills, disease outbreaks, and other hazards. The goal is to reduce or prevent human injury and property damage during critical events. The planning phase involves documenting the steps your organization will take in each of these emergencies to ensure a timely response tailored to each scenario.
These plans also take the guesswork out of roles and responsibilities by specifying which staff members should be part of the response team and which first responders should be contacted.
You can create your own emergency response plan from scratch or use a pre-built template, like ours , to make the process easier.
Why use an emergency response plan template?
An emergency response plan template can make your planning process quicker and simpler. Every business has a unique range of emergencies they face, but there are some consistent response procedures that you can personalize to your individual risks. Templates also give you a single place to collect important contact information for your response team and first responders.
You can download this free template to get started building your plan today.
The best emergency response plans include a list of individuals to contact (and their contact information), evacuation routes, how to act during an emergency, how to mitigate risk to your people and facilities, and detailed communication procedures to follow during and after a specific emergency occurs.
That said, plans can vary widely depending on the setting and circumstances surrounding the crisis. It’s important to create a plan that accounts for life-saving actions, such as
- Building evacuations in case of events like fires
- Shelter-in-place orders during severe weather like tornadoes
- Complete lockdown in case of an active shooter situation
Now that you’re up to speed on why your organization needs a plan and what it should cover, let’s examine how to create an effective emergency response plan for your business.
How to Conduct Emergency Response Planning
Each organization is unique, so you may find that additional measures are warranted to protect your business from possible hazards—beyond the examples listed. However, by completing these steps, you will be well on your way to ensuring your team knows what is expected of them and when.
Step #1: Perform a threat assessment
The first step to creating an emergency response plan is to conduct a comprehensive threat assessment to identify the types of events that may affect your organization and analyze their likelihood and potential impact. Specific threats vary by location, sector, and company, and your mitigation strategies will vary depending on the scenario. You may need to plan for the following types of events:
- Natural disasters — Hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, wildfires, etc.
- Severe weather — Winter storms, high winds, extreme heat waves, floods, etc.
- Pandemics and infectious diseases — COVID-19, influenza, etc.
- Facility emergencies — Structure fires, hazardous leaks or spills, etc.
- Acts of workplace violence — Active shooters, bomb threats, terrorist attacks, etc.
- Civil disturbances — Protests, demonstrations, riots, strikes, etc.
Even when lives may not be immediately at stake during a crisis, timely communication is just as important. Other events that require a planned response for the success of the business and safety of your team may include:
- IT events — Unplanned outages, planned downtime or maintenance, system testing, cyberattacks or security breaches, help desk escalations, etc.
- Operational events — Logistics coordination, power outages, equipment malfunctions, office closures, travel advisories, safety alerts, shift and overtime scheduling, etc.
- Corporate/ crisis communication events — Product recalls, negative publicity, layoffs, major company news, etc.
Using the all-hazards approach to your risk assessment is a great way to ensure you are covering all your bases, able to prepare for any kind of threat.
Step #2: Document contact information
In the event of an emergency that could cause physical harm to your employees, the first call you should make is to your local emergency responders. Aside from 9-1-1, you need to have numbers for emergency medical services (EMS), the fire department, healthcare providers/insurance agents, and local law enforcement/police department readily available.
Additionally, make sure you have emergency contact information documented for every employee in case someone goes unaccounted for or gets injured during the emergency.
Step #3: Assign roles and responsibilities
When an emergency occurs, employees will look to their leaders for reassurance and guidance. These leaders should be in charge of activating your emergency response plan, answering important questions, and ordering an evacuation if needed. When assigning roles, there are important considerations to acknowledge. You need to make sure your response team is present, reliable, and able to react quickly in the face of an emergency.
Here are the main roles to consider as part of your emergency response plan:
This employee has overall responsibility for an emergency, including planning and preparation. The incident commander is in charge of emergency response plan activation and is the one all critical decisions should go through.
This person should use the mass alert system to notify employees, call emergency services, and gather reports. If your company is using an emergency communication system, make sure this person is a system admin.
This person controls access to the emergency scene and keeps people away from unsafe areas.
Building utilities manager(s)
These team members need to be familiar with the locations and functions of controls for building utility and life safety and protection systems. These systems include ventilation, electrical shutoffs, water and sanitary systems, emergency power supplies, and alarm systems.
In the event of an evacuation, these guides play an important role in ensuring that routes are clear and evacuation is orderly and calm. They also help clear evacuation routes and assist those with mobility issues.
Step #4: Take stock of current resources within your organization
Have you inspected those dusty office fire extinguishers, alarm systems, or first aid kits lately? These are critical components to any emergency response plan, so examine them regularly.
Fire extinguishers and alarms
To support your fire safety, the National Fire Protection Association recommends refilling reusable fire extinguishers every 10 years and replacing disposable ones every 12 years. Periodically remind your employees where the fire extinguishers are located in the workplace. Maintain and test any fire alarms on your premises. Run regular fire drills to get your team used to the evacuation process.
This step-by-step video will guide you through the process of conducting a fire drill at work.
Inspect fire alarm systems annually at the very least. OSHA recommends testing non-supervised employee alarm systems every two months. This inspection covers a host of details, depending on the type of alarm system, like inspection of control panel(s), tests of all associated devices such as smoke detectors and heat detectors, warning systems operations, and batteries and power.
First aid kit
OSHA requires that “employers provide medical and first aid supplies commensurate with the hazards of the workplace.” Since many items in a first aid kit have expiration dates—typically three to five years after manufacture—and can become damaged by frequent use, moisture, and exposure to the air, it is important to regularly check your first aid kit and replace any supplies as needed. As a proactive approach, restock items after use and inspect first aid supplies every three months. Provide the necessary first aid training so your team is prepared to use these supplies and help their coworkers in emergencies, big and small.
Step #5: Determine your response plan steps
Next, decide what steps to follow in an emergency. Customize each event response so the procedures are specific and clear.
As an example, here’s how you might go about planning for an evacuation response.
Emergency fire evacuation plan example
A good fire evacuation plan for your business will include primary and secondary escape routes. Clear signs should mark all the exit routes and fire escapes. Keep exit routes clear of furniture or other objects that could impede a direct means of egress for your employees. For large offices, make multiple maps of floor plans and diagrams and post them so employees know the evacuation routes. Best practice also calls for developing a separate evacuation plan for individuals with disabilities who may need additional assistance.
Once your people are out of the building, where do they go? Designate an assembly point for employees to gather. Your response team should be at the assembly point, collecting a headcount and providing updates. Ensure the escape routes and the assembly area can accommodate the expected number of employees who will be evacuating.
Be sure to also think about your disaster recovery efforts, or what you do once the emergency is done. With planning that extends to recovery, your business can move forward and get back to work as normal. For example, if you have a spill of hazardous materials, your emergency response plan will account for how to keep people safe and how to contain the spill. The recovery section of your template will explain how to clean up the spill and get that area of the building back to safe working conditions.
Step #6: Decide how to communicate with your employees
One of the most important parts of any emergency response plan is how you will communicate. When developing your emergency communication plan , consider how to notify employees of a critical event, how the information will be delivered and received, and how effective your communication channels will be at reaching every employee in harm’s way.
During critical events, phone calls and emails are no longer enough. Manual phone trees are prone to misinformation and long delays, and an email alert system alone just doesn’t cut it for emergency communication.
Research suggests that only 65% of employees open internal emails. For workers constantly inundated with messages, internal emails don’t create the sense of urgency needed for time-sensitive information. Hourly and frontline employees—such as retail associates and distribution center workers—often do not have a company email address at all or they don’t have access to it from their personal phones outside of business hours. And if phone lines are down or email is inaccessible—as can often be the case in emergency situations—your employees may never receive the message. If an organization is hit with an IT virus, for example, relying on email as the only communication channel would be useless and perhaps even counterproductive.
Include notification templates in your emergency response plan so you can send messages about an incident as quickly as hitting a button. Our template includes examples of what those messages might look like, as well as spaces to compose your own.
Leveraging Technology to Improve Emergency Preparedness
Today’s workforce is more distributed than ever before, especially with a drastic shift to remote and hybrid working environments. This makes emergency communication increasingly important—but also more challenging.
A modern emergency notification system enables the fast, reliable delivery of mass notifications to any-size audience, on any device, over any communication channel. And every organization—regardless of size, industry, or location—will face unexpected events that can be managed more effectively with the help of emergency communication software.
When evaluating mass notification solutions, it may be easy to fall into the trap of thinking a standalone text messaging tool is sufficient. But a simple mass texting system simply doesn’t have the functionality to communicate reliably with your people during critical events. When the health and safety of your people are at stake, only an enterprise-grade emergency communication system can offer the speed, reliability, and user experience you need.
A mass notification system with multichannel delivery, two-way communication , pre-built notification templates , and threat intelligence can help protect your people and business. With a modern emergency communication system, you can rapidly send and receive messages across multiple channels and ensure everyone gets the information they need when they need it. By automatically syncing with your HRIS or Active Directory, you’ll also never have to worry about inaccurate employee contact information, which is critical to safeguarding message deliverability.
Designing a Modern Emergency Response Plan
Every business needs a solid plan for how they will communicate with employees during emergencies and other business-critical events. In emergencies, minutes can mean the difference between minor impact and major disaster. The heat of a crisis is not the time to figure out how to effectively communicate and ensure the safety of your employees.
By building out your emergency response plan in advance, your business is prepared to act at the first signs of a crisis. Download this template to make your planning process as simple and effective as possible—so you can get back to leading safe everyday operations.
Download Our Emergency Response Plan Template
More articles you may be interested in.
Emergency Response Plan Template
Please complete the form below to receive this resource.
Check Your Inbox!
The document you requested has been sent to your provided email address.
Thank you for subscribing!
Cookies are required to play this video.
Click the blue shield icon on the bottom left of your screen to edit your cookie preferences.
An emergency action plan (EAP) is a written document required by particular OSHA standards. [29 CFR 1910.38(a)] The purpose of an EAP is to facilitate and
Even if you are not specifically required to do so, compiling an emergency action plan is a good way to protect yourself, your employees, and your business
The main reason to have an emergency action plan is to do as much as possible to keep your employees safe in case of disaster. The confusion of an emergency can
Emergency Action Plan (Template) ... Evacuation route maps have been posted in each work area. The ... EMERGENCY REPORTING AND EVACUATION PROCEDURES.
FEMA's Organizations Preparing for Emergency Needs (OPEN) is a self-guided training designed to teach small business owners and operators how to identify risks
The plan should include a means to warn everyone to move away from windows and move to the core of the building. Warn anyone working outside to
This Emergency Action Plan (EAP) establishes guidelines for all reasonably foreseeable workplace emergencies. Because each emergency situation involves
Evacuation Procedures, Escape Routes, and Floor Plans · Reporting and Alerting Authorities · Alerting Staff and Visitors of an Emergency · Accounting for Everyone
Emergency escape procedures and evacuation routes. In an emergency, employees will leave the affected work area immediately by the emergency routes posted in
An emergency response plan is a document that lays out the series of steps your organization will take during a critical event, such as a fire